Another regulator unconditionally approves Microsoft's Activision merger with Xbox

Microsoft President Brad Smith against an Activision backdrop.
(Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • In January of 2022 Microsoft announced a deal to purchase Activision Blizzard King, publishers of titles like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush, for a record setting $68.7 billion.
  • For the deal to close, it needs global approval from national regulatory boards and committees. 
  • The US's Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the UK's Competition and Market Authority (CMA) have both attempted to block the merger, while many other countries have approved it following remedies for anti-competition concerns.
  • The Competition Tribunal of South Africa has approved the merger unconditionally.

Microsoft's ongoing acquisition of Activision Blizzard has received a fresh approval, this time from South Africa's Competition Tribunal. Earlier this month, the Competition Tribunal held a hearing where they heard concerns from Microsoft's competition regarding Microsoft's potential to foreclose access to Activision's gaming content, with a particular emphasis on Call of Duty. 

This is a similar complaint that is being leveraged in the United States as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed for a preliminary injunction to stop the deal from coming to a close. 

The FTC vs Xbox hearing has just recently come to a close, and Judge Jacqueline Corley is currently drafting a decision on whether or not to grant the injunction. During the FTC hearing, Xbox CEO Phil Spencer declared under oath that there were no intentions to foreclose on Call of Duty from Sony or other competitors. Spencer has also attempted to negotiate a 10-year agreement to with Sony's CEO Jim Ryan to commit to keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation consoles, which Ryan has refused to sign. Similar deals were signed between Spencer and the leaders of other platforms, including Nintendo and cloud streaming platforms NVIDIA and Boosteroid. Valve declined such an agreement on behalf of the Steam storefront, stating they saw no need for it. 

Similar declarations seemed to have been sufficient for South Africa's Competition Tribunal, as the Commission there has stated that despite Call of Duty's popularity, it is not the most popular game and that there were no concerns regarding the merger and South Africa's existing anti-competition laws.

Despite the latest approval, the ABK deal still has a long way to go before it can formally close even as the July 18 deadline for the deal to close rapidly approaches. The UK's CMA regulatory body recently lost their attempt at delaying the hearing scheduled for late July regarding Microsoft's appeal of their decision to reject the merger on the grounds that it would be anti-competitive in the nascent cloud gaming market. Meanwhile, Microsoft has expressed a willingness to close the ABK deal despite the ongoing lawsuits

Cole Martin

Cole is the resident Call of Duty know-it-all and indie game enthusiast for Windows Central. She's a lifelong artist with two decades of experience in digital painting, and she will happily talk your ear off about budget pen displays.